Saturday, February 04, 2006

The ridiculous UN Human Rights Commission

What do China, Cuba, Sudan and Saudi Arabia have in common?

They are all brutally repressive dictatorships.

And they all have seats on the UN Human Rights Commission.

Joseph Loconte discusses the failure of the UN, and the alternatives for those who still have a sense of moral realism.

Earlier this month the Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations, chafing over a U.S. plan to salvage the discredited Human Rights Commission, exemplified why the very idea of U.N. reform looks more and more like a gothic fantasy. The ambassador was indignant at the notion that states under U.N. sanction for rights abuses should be kept off a newly created Human Rights Council. "The presumption that a country is a violator of human rights is very subjective," complained Munir Akram. "If you want to create criteria...that exclude certain countries, why not those that don't support trade liberalization or that don't implement foreign aid targets? The knife cuts both ways."

Apologists for repressive governments, of course, love to talk this way: Farm subsidies are the moral equivalent of women being brutalized by militias in Congo or sold into sexual slavery in Cambodia. Or, in the case of Pakistan, of religious minorities being jailed and assaulted for allegedly violating blasphemy laws. In other words, no nation's political culture is better or worse than any other's.

It is not just problematic regimes that debase the concept of human rights with this kind of evasion. This is the logic of multiculturalism, an ethos that infects the United Nations from top to bottom. Echoed endlessly in U.N. reports and resolutions, this ethos has helped create a deep-seated cynicism about the nature of human rights. More than any other factor, it threatens to derail the current effort to reform the Human Rights Commission before its March meeting in Geneva.
"When the mind is not confused by utopian illusions, it is not difficult to recognize genuine achievements of justice and to feel under obligation to defend them against the threats of tyranny and the negation of justice", wrote Reinhold Niebuhr.

Unfortunately, the UN no longer qualifies.


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